Inspiration and motivation: An interview with Earthship PEI

Prince Edward Island is leaps and bounds ahead of most of Canada with the alternative housing movement. I recently had the privilege of connecting with Earthship extraordinaire, Jayden Charlton. He has worked  alongside his build partner, Jordan Cameron to nurture Earthship PEI from an idea into a full grown movement. 

Jayden and Jordan Cameron chose to make the leap into Earthships because they are traditionally off grid and there was no need to cut any corners. He explained that PEI has a history of being an “incubator for renewable and alternative technologies”. First, there was “The Ark” which was built in 1976 as a response to the 1970’s energy crisis. The Ark had been built by the UN and was powered by wind and heated by the sun. PEI is currently home to six wind farms and is the global leader in wind electricity.

Because of the relaxed building codes in the rural areas, alternative housing is easier to develop in PEI than most provinces. There is also the large range of interesting people drawn to the beauty and ready to contribute their creative touch. If you want to move somewhere lush and progressive like PEI, how budget friendly is an Earthship?

Charlton explained that the cost of an Earthsip is on a sliding scale depending on your level of commitment, resourcefulness, and size requirements. Some folks choose to hire someone like Micheal Rynolds to have their home constructed for them which can cost something around a quarter million dollars. If you want to fully embrace the DIY approach by collecting recycled materials and putting in the work, it is possible to build a “survival model” for under $25 000. The best way to prepare for one of these models is by starting early. Charlton says, “scout construction site bins, check in at your local dumps, hardware store sales, or flawed wood bins.” Rather than talking over the phone, meet people face to face and always check in with local businesses to see if there is anything you can take.

On average it takes about 2 years to construct an Earthship depending on the experience of the crew. As things are right now, Earthship PEI is confident that they can do a build in one year.

The climate in PEI doesn’t present as much of a challenge as it can in other parts of Canada, aside from the dreaded snow shoveling. Moisture has been a problem for some, but not for his team.

Water is managed by storing and treating rainwater. The original model which was built in Wellington reuses the water as food for the plants in the botanical cells. Earthship PEI is currently considering constructing a traditional well for the next build as a “cost effective and practical” solution. Traditionally designed for the desert, Earthship wells would need to be very deep. That would prove to be less of a hurdle building on the island.

This highly motivated crew is currently exploring the option of building their own solar panels from cells ordered from China. “It’s looking like it might be very affordable” Jayden remarks. This reduces the cost by almost 50 percent and cuts out the middle man. The two are also looking forward to the Tesla power wall as a future “game changer”.

For more information or to become involved, visit the Earthship PEI facebook page and get connected! Start early and get creative, he urges! “As long as you break your goals down into manageable steps, anything can be accomplished.”

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